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China doubles down on ownership claim on WPS, tells Philippines to 'respect' it

China doubles down on ownership claim on WPS, tells Philippines to 'respect' it

MANILA, Philippines—China doubled down on its claim to own the West Philippine Sea (WPS), demanding that the Philippines “respect” Chinese sovereignty over the area.

The Chinese demand came as the Philippines stepped up patrols in WPS.

Wang Wenbin, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, said the Philippines should “stop actions complicating the situation and escalating disputes.”

“China enjoys sovereignty over Nansha Islands, including Zhongye Island and Zhongsha Islands, including Huangyan Island and their adjacent waters, and exercises jurisdiction in relevant waters,” Wenbin said at a press briefing on Monday (April 27).

“We urge the relevant side to respect China’s sovereignty and rights and interests,” he added.

Nansha is the Chinese name for the Spratlys, or Kalayaan Island Group in the Philippines. Zhongye Island is Pag-asa (Thitu) Island, while Huangyan is Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal .

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) announced on Sunday (April 25) that it has been conducting drills in the West Philippine Sea since last week as part of efforts to secure “our maritime jurisdiction.”

The PCG sent BRP Gabriela Silang (OPV-8301) and BRP Sindangan (MRRV-4407) to Panatag Shoal, while BRP Cabra (MRRV-4409), BRP Malapascua (MRRV-4403) and a ship from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources were deployed to Pag-asa Island.

The Philippines bolstered its presence in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as China parked hundreds of militia vessels at Julian Felipe Reef, which is inside Philippine EEZ, last month. The Chinese ships dispersed after the Philippines filed a series of diplomatic protests but remained scattered around the Philippines’ EEZ.

The international arbitral ruling in The Hague in 2016 declared China’s mythical nine-dash claim to most of the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, as invalid and baseless. China, according to the ruling, violated Philippine sovereignty and Filipinos’ right to fish and explore resources in the West Philippine Sea. Beijing considered the ruling as trash and does not recognize it.

TSB